When coronavirus outbreaks threatened the closure of meatpacking facilities across the nation, Notre Dame historian Joshua Specht experienced a striking sense of déjà vu in the parallels to his research on meat production and consumption in the late 19th century.
National concern hardly centered on the facility workers getting sick, but instead focused on the steady supply of meat to the American table. Nothing makes a pandemic hit home, Specht says, like going to the local grocery store and discovering that it’s all out of bacon, hamburgers or steaks.
Specht came to Notre Dame in the fall of 2019 soon after publishing his first book, Red Meat Republic: A Hoof-to-Table History of How Beef Changed America. Recent events at modern meatpacking facilities have intensified interest in his research, compelling him to apply his expertise to how the same problems persist in modern times.
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